In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thirst is relative. Sometimes it isn’t until you drink a little water that you realize how thirsty you really are. You can drink all sorts of other things, but there is no substitute for a thirst-quenching drink of cold water. What drinks have you drunk in search of satisfaction? The Samaritan woman had clearly been drinking from the wrong wells. “Go, call your husband, and come here,” Jesus tells her (John 4:16). “The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true’” (4:17-18, ESV). She was drinking and drinking and drinking, but never satisfied. Thirsty, but the thirst was never quenched. She drank, along with the other Samaritans, of the gods of the five nations sent in by the Assyrians to conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:24-31). Now she was trying to drink of Yahweh along with those other gods. But He was not yet her Husband.
What drinks have you drunk in search of satisfaction? You could tell me, I’m sure, of people or things in which you have searched for satisfaction. You could tell me that when you began to do the job for which you had been trained, you thought you would be satisfied, finally. Or when you found your spouse and knew it. Or when your father finally told you that he loved you. Or when your children smile at you with the trusting look that only children can have. All of those things are part of the joy of this life. But they will not satisfy. If you had all of that and more, your thirst would remain. You can fully drink in the genuinely good life and you will still thirst for more. It is greed, or lust, or that unnamed thing that lives inside you with an open throat and an unending desire for more. You have a vague, or maybe a not-so-vague, intuition that none of it will satisfy, like the Samaritan woman waiting with her expansive spirituality for the Messiah to come and explain everything to her.
We’ve all got broken wells that cannot hold the water of life. Even though we know, even though we’ve been told again and again, that living water is found only in the Triune God, we still like to keep our own water supplies. The water may be good, like family or employment, or it may be rancid, like doubt verging on unbelief or addiction to some thing or another. Some of our wells we manage to forget about, or at least keep well hidden, until someone falls into one of them; until the gaping hole, with its cobwebs and cold air, is uncovered and there is darkness upon darkness. Are there things in your life of which even your closest family member does not know? Maybe if that person were to stumble onto such a well, it would mean the end of the relationship. So you keep it hidden. But God knows. God knows. He says, “[M]y people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13, ESV). Not only do we forsake the source of the water of life, but we drink again and again the bitter water of sin. We dig our own wells and then we try to carry the water home in broken buckets.
The thing of it is, we can’t get away from the springs of our sin that lie just beneath the surface. These sources of strife and suffering do not come from outside us. “What comes out of a person is what defiles him,” Jesus says (Mark 7:20, ESV). This is the truth about all people, including ourselves, that we may fear to face: nothing good comes from within people. I’ve got nothing good that I can call my own. What good do you have that you have not received? “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23, ESV). If you don’t recognize yourself somewhere in there, you haven’t looked in a mirror recently. Broken cisterns that can hold no water, every last one of us. Humans are not generally good; some are just better at hiding the evil than others. There is no spark of goodness in us that only needs to be ignited; we extinguished that a long time ago. So do not put your trust in presidents or politicians; do not put your trust in celebrities; do not put your trust in your next-door neighbor; do not put your trust in yourself. All will eventually fail you and leave you dried out and dehydrated.
But the gift of God, the living water He gives, is here for you today. If your throat is dry and your stomach empty, come and ask Him, and He will give you living water. Everyone who drinks from wells other than Jesus Christ will be thirsty again. Repent that you have drunk from those other wells. Repent of your spiritual dipsomania, of your searching for satisfaction in broken cisterns and stagnant pools. Repent and drink the water of life. The living water of the Son of God is as necessary to your spiritual life as the water from the tap or bottle is necessary for physical life. And He gives it to the utmost. He gives Himself, so much so that the Fountain of living water chokes out, “I thirst” (John 19:28). He is drained of His life and dies so that you can drink from Him and live. “Whoever believes in me,” He says, “shall never thirst” (John 6:35, ESV). In His dying and in your drinking is the end of thirst. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14, ESV). There is no other water like this! There is no well but Christ that satisfies forever!
Last week, we heard how we are born again of water and the Spirit in baptism; how God our Savior has washed us by the Holy Spirit with the washing of regeneration and renewal; how Jesus has cleansed us by the washing of water with the Word. But this water, made holy by the blood of Christ, is not just on your skin, it is inside you. By faith, you have drunk deeply of the wells of salvation, and you are being washed from the inside out. Thus says the Lord in John 7, “If anyone thirsts, let the one who believes come to me and drink” (v. 37). Thus says Yahweh in Isaiah 55: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price…Listen diligently to me…Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (vv. 1, 2b-3a, ESV). And again, in the Revelation to St. John, “[L]et the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (22:17, ESV). Beloved, it is here for you, in this place, and it is free for the taking. The price has been paid and the water of life flows from the Temple of Christ’s Body without end (Ezekiel 47:1-12; John 2:21).
But there is more; grace upon grace. Jesus says, “as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…” (John 7:38-39, ESV). And so it happens: Jesus says, “It is finished,” and He gives up the Spirit. And then “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:30, 34). And what happens when the disciples of Jesus, made so by baptizing and teaching, receive the Holy Spirit whom Jesus gives? They speak the Word of God with boldness, as the whole Book of Acts testifies.
You, like those first disciples, have been given the Holy Spirit to speak of Christ in the place where God has put you. You know how the people gathered in Jerusalem each heard the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ in his or her own language. What language do the people in your life speak? Whatever it is, you know it fluently. You are of them, so you can return to them. Your thirst has been quenched, and they, too, need this water or their thirsty souls will turn to dust. Today you drink; be filled with living water from the wells of salvation. And as you go from this temple—from Christ, the source of living water—the water will well up in you to overflowing. Pray that the Spirit of God will bring you into contact with thirsty bodies and thirsty souls. Pray that the Spirit of God will form your feeble words into cups to hold the water of the Word of God. Pray that your thirsty friends and family, too, will come like the people of Samaria, and believe because they hear Jesus; that they will drink the water that Jesus gives, and be thirsty no more–until all who have drunk the living water of Jesus Christ rejoice together beside the river of life in the New Jerusalem.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/14/17